Sometimes things happen to you because they need to happen. In Taylor Kowalski’s case, it was an incorrectly set alarm clock that caused her to be late one morning.
As she was rushing to her English class on campus, she heard a yell that stopped her. She suddenly noticed a man in a thick yellow jacket with Security across the back collapse at around 6:40 a.m. on Nov. 7. Kowalski immediately took action.
“When I heard the yell, it didn’t register at first that it came from him,” said Kowalski. “I thought maybe someone had hit him and run off. I knew something was wrong so I instinctively ran to him.”
Kowalski ran to the unconscious man and turned him over so he could breathe. She called 9-1-1 and explained to the paramedics on the phone what had happened and the man’s condition. She gave them directions to her location.
“All I could think was if this was me, I would want someone near me, talking to me through it whether I could hear them or not,” Kowalski said. “I was trying to give the paramedics our location all while trying to talk calmly to (the man). The location we were at on campus was far from the main road and was difficult to describe.”
Kowalski attempted to comfort the man by holding his hand and speaking to him until the paramedics found her.
“I felt like so much time passed. I watched to make sure his chest was moving up and down and I noticed his hands got really cold, really fast,” she said.
The man was identified as James McClung, a 70-year-old campus police officer.
McClung has been a Colorado State Trooper and Bellevue College campus cop for more than two decades. He was almost finished with his graveyard shift when he collapsed.
According to McClung’s family, doctors are not sure what caused McClung to lose consciousness. He was released from the hospital later that day.
Several days after the incident, Kowalski received a call from McClung’s wife, thanking her.
“The feedback that I got from the school and family was that, had I not been there and had not acted so quickly, the man probably would not have lived,” Kowalski said. “I stepped aside when the paramedics arrived and let them do their job. There were quite a few firefighters and medics on the scene and they got out and shook my hand one by one. To be called a hero by the men and women who are everyday heroes was a huge honor.”
Kowalski is a Running Start student at Bellevue College and a senior at Eastlake High School. Kowalski’s interest in pursuing an EMT certification has piqued since the incident.
Kowalski believes she was running late that day so that she would be able to help McClung.
“It’s scary to think if I had been on time that day, no one would have been around to help him,” said Kowalski. “I believe it happened for a reason.”